With electricity and gas prices continuing to rise across Australia, getting business energy costs under control is essential. While major efficiency upgrades require capital, many practical low-cost tactics can reduce your business energy costs. Here we walk through 10 tips you can implement immediately to start saving power, money, and the planet.
- Adjust HVAC temperature setpoints during closed hours
- Switch off idle appliances and enable power-saving modes
- Replace outdated lighting with energy-efficient LED bulbs
- Seal air leaks around doors, windows and ductwork
- Install timers and smart controls to optimise equipment usage
- Set computers/printers to sleep when not in use
- Raise cooling setpoints slightly in warm months
- Lower heating setpoints marginally in colder months
- Insulate older water heaters and pipe runs
- Monitor energy usage and communicate results to engage staff
1. Tweak Thermostat Setpoints
Heating and cooling represent over 40% of a building's energy use. Adjusting your HVAC system's setpoint when the facility is closed achieves easy savings:
- Program the thermostat to allow temperatures to float higher in summer and lower in winter during nights, weekends or closures. Just a 1°C adjustment can save over 5% in HVAC energy.
- Widen setpoints in storage areas or zones with minimal occupancy.
- Install programmable thermostats enabling preset optimised heating and cooling schedules if manually adjusting multiple units.
2. Power Down Idle Devices
Equipment left continuously on or idling consumes up to 10% of business energy even when not in use. Follow best practices to eliminate this waste:
- Use master switches to fully power down equipment like printers, monitors and speakers at close of business.
- For servers, optimise virtualisation and data centre management strategies to minimise always-on energy use.
- Connect appliances like fans and phone chargers to power strips that can be completely switched off.
- Install occupancy sensors, timers or scheduled outlets to automatically power off idle devices.
3. Switch to LED Lighting
Older lighting like halogens and CFLs consume far more electricity to produce equivalent lumens versus LEDs. Prioritise LED replacements in the highest use areas first, then phase building-wide:
- Upgrade spotlights and directional lighting - these are on for longer periods.
- Determine ideal lumen output needed for each space to avoid over-lighting.
- Install smart controls like occupancy sensors, timers, and daylight harvesting to minimise lighting energy.
- Consider group or zone switching to shut off unnecessary lighting in vacant areas.
4. Plug Air Leaks
Hot or cold air escaping through cracks and gaps represents wasted money. Regularly inspect and seal obvious problem areas:
- Caulk and weatherstrip leaky doors and windows.
- Add plastic film insulation kits to older windows with drafts.
- Seal openings around pipes, vents, wiring and ducts traversing exterior walls and ceilings.
- Close off unused chimneys.
- Keep dock bay doors closed when not in active use. Consider plastic strip doors as an airlock.
5. Optimise Equipment Timings
Use programmable timers and controls to run equipment only during necessary operating hours. Options include:
- Thermostat setbacks and timeouts - don't heat or cool constantly.
- Timers on hot water systems - don't maintain tank temperature 24/7.
- Scheduled start/stop on production machinery.
- Interlocking contacts that power down HVAC when large bay doors open.
- Lighting controls activated by motion or ambient light sensors.
6. Activate Standby Settings
Enable power management settings that shift idle devices into low energy standby or sleep modes:
- For computers, use sleep mode settings of 15-20 minutes.
- Change printer defaults to sleep after 5-10 minutes of inactivity.
- Install smart power strips to cut phantom load when appliances are off.
- Use occupancy sensors in low traffic areas to power down lighting/HVAC when vacant.
7. Loosen Cooling Setpoints
If comfortable, slightly relaxing summertime cooling setpoints can provide quick savings:
- Raise settings 1-3°C higher than normal comfort levels.
- Loosen dress codes to allow more casual clothing.
- Use fans and air circulation to supplement cooling needs at higher temperatures.
- Relax setbacks even further during evenings, weekends and holidays.
8. Lower Heating Setpoints
Similarly, lowering winter heating just 1-2°C below comfortable norms reduces consumption:
- Set daytime temperatures at 19-20°C versus 22-23°C.
- Allow for wider night and weekend heating setbacks to 16°C.
- Promote layering of warmer clothing among staff.
- Zone heating to different occupancy areas rather than the whole building.
9. Insulate Infrastructure
Preventing heat gain/loss from older pipes, tanks and ducts is low cost. Prioritise:
- Hot water pipes - insulate all accessible plumbing runs.
- Hot water heaters - wrap older tanks with insulation sleeves.
- Ductwork traveling through unheated spaces - seal and insulate.
- Older heat exchangers, valves and flanges - cover these with appropriate insulation.
10. Track and Communicate Energy Performance
Monitoring usage and engaging staff creates a conservation culture:
- Install energy management systems to collect granular consumption data.
- Share results through newsletters and highlight energy-saving employee behaviour.
- Suggest further savings tactics and set new reduction targets.
- Tie employee bonuses and rewards to meeting energy and sustainability KPIs.
With creative thinking and commitment to reducing waste, any Australian business can substantively lower energy expenditures through pragmatic low-cost tactics. Maintain momentum by continuously identifying new behavioral and operational energy savings opportunities. A lean energy footprint is key to maximising profits in challenging economic times.
FAQs on Business Energy Savings
What's the easiest way to start reducing my business energy costs?
Basic setpoint adjustments to HVAC, lighting upgrades, and powering down idle devices offer quick returns on minimal investment. Zone off low occupancy areas.
What payback period can I expect from low-cost energy projects?
Simple no-cost behavioral changes like temperature setbacks provide immediate savings. Basic upgrades like sealing leaks and adding insulation generate returns within 1 year.
How much can I realistically reduce my business' energy usage?
Expect potential energy savings of 10-25% from no-cost behavioral and operational changes. Additional equipment upgrades can lower usage a further 10-20%.
What expertise is required to implement energy savings practices?
Basic efficiency best practices can be managed internally through engagement and training. More complex upgrades may benefit from an energy consultant's technical guidance.
Where can I learn about available subsidies and incentives for business energy savings?
Government assistance includes discounted energy assessments, commercial lighting rebates, and tax deductions for qualifying efficiency upgrades.